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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Prevention Strategies

Teens who don't use alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs are less likely to use them as adults. Efforts to prevent teen substance abuse should begin early in life with education, encouragement of healthy behaviors, and good family bonds.

Positive self-esteem, a supportive family, and positive role models help teens gain confidence to make good choices.

If you live in a high-risk neighborhood or your teen is at high risk for an abuse problem, a community program can help your teen learn skills to avoid substance abuse.

Even young school children have opinions about substance use. So start early to help your child learn the skills needed to avoid substance use.

Be a role model, and stay connected

  • Be a role model. As a parent, your attitude toward alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs is one of the greatest influences on whether your child will use substances. If you have a substance abuse problem, get help. If you quit, your teen is more likely to get help early if he or she starts abusing a substance.
  • Share your beliefs. Even though they may not act like it, most children listen to what their parents tell them. Talk with your teen about the effects of substances on emotions, schoolwork, and health. If you have a family history of abuse problems, talk with your teen about his or her increased risk for the same problems.
  • Stay connected. Know your teen's friends. Know where your teen is at all times. Set times when the family is expected to be together, such as at mealtimes. Plan family outings or other family fun activities.
  • Be fair and consistent. Extremes of discipline can increase the risk of substance abuse. Set reasonable consequences for unacceptable behavior, and consistently carry them out. Praise your teen for his or her successes. Expect your teen to follow the household rules. Use a parent-teen contract to write down expected behaviors and consequences if the plan is not followed.
  • Encourage activities. Keep your teen busy with meaningful activities, such as sports, church programs, or other group involvement. Teens who feel good about themselves are less likely to use alcohol and drugs.
  • Get informed. Learn about the substances commonly abused by teens. Talk with a doctor. Find out how the drugs work, what their street names are, and what the signs of being under the influence are.

Talk about personal and legal consequences

  • Personal consequences. Explain that some behaviors, such as unsafe sex, can lead to consequences that last a lifetime. Talk about how the use of substances while trying to develop adult skills—graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job—can affect your teen's future.
  • Legal consequences. Remind your teen that it is illegal for teens to use any substances. Talk about the increased risk of car crashes, violence, and arrests because of substance use.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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